The Incredible Adventures of a Swedish Centenarian

Book Review:

“The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared”

By Jonas Jonasson

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

A fertile imagination is not something you’d expect from a person with the name of Jonas Jonasson, but his book “The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared” is evidence that Mr Jonasson has significantly transcended the creativity of his parents, or indeed that of his Nordic ancestors.

On the eve of his 100th birthday, almost centenarian Allan Karlsson escapes from the banality of his mundane existence in an old-age facility in rural Sweden and goes on a fantastic voyage. In his twilight, Karlsson manages, among other incredible feats, to steal 50 million kronor (over $US7 million) in drug money from a Swedish gangster, inadvertently kill two gang members, recruit his own gang, elude the violent and angry gang boss (before eventually converting him to Christianity), stay just ahead of the police, befriend an elephant and finish up getting married in Indonesia and living happily ever after.

The hilarious tale is interspersed with anecdotes from Karlsson’s equally extraordinary life and is very much a ‘Forrest Gump” tale of someone who just kept on keeping on with blithe regard for life’s complications like politics, religion and social norms. He overcomes numerous seemingly insurmountable barriers by maintaining a positive mental attitude and believing that a solution to whatever predicament he finds himself embroiled in will eventually present itself.

His casual, come-what-may approach to life and incredible good fortune, leads him share his penchant of vodka with many of the history’s largest names and, in associated inebriation, develop useful first-name friendships with many, including; Chairman Mao, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B Johnson, Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill.

During the course of his fascinating life, Karlsson manages to become an explosives expert, saves General Franco from being blown to pieces, and thereby aids the establishment of a fascist dictatorship in Spain, solves the problem of nuclear fission for U.S. scientists working on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos and later provides the solution to a similar problem for Russian physicists and thereby initiating the Cold War.

When in China, he finds himself straddling both sides of the civil war by befriending Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and Soong Mei-ling, wife of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-Shek. He escapes his potentially life-threatening situation in China by traversing the Himalayas on foot and arrives in Iran a prisoner of the notoriously ruthless Iranian police chief whom he subsequently manages to blow up and simultaneously thwart an assassination attempt on the life of Winston Churchill who had stopped off in Tehran en-route to Kenya to visit his friend the Shah. In the ensuing chaos, he again manages to escape certain death and arrives at the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, where he is granted asylum and eventually makes it back to Sweden––on the intervention of his friend President Truman––where he is promptly abducted by a Russian physicist in the hope he will assist the Soviets also build an atomic bomb.

In the Soviet Union, Karlsson then manages to infuriate Stalin at a dinner party by inadvertently revealing that he’d been responsible for saving the lives of both of General Franco and Winston Churchill and then exacerbating the situation by drunkenly reciting a verse by a Swedish poet Verner von Heidenstam, a fascist sympathiser. He then tangles with Stalin’s ruthless Soviet security and secret police (NKVD) head Marshal Lavrentiy Beria and winds up in a gulag with Herbert Einstein, the dim-witted brother of Albert Einstein…they make a daring escape together after five years hard labour by destroying the entire city of Vladivostok, arrive in Pyongyang, meet both Kims (Il Sung and son Jong Il), and Mao Zedong…and then wind up in Bali for a 20-year holiday financed with greenbacks the United States had provided the Kuomintang that been subsequently sequestered by the Communist Party (a gift from his friend the Chairman). Karlsson becomes fluent in half a dozen languages, is appointed interpreter for the Indonesian Ambassador to France…I could go on and this book certainly does!

“The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared” is a fun read that presents a simplistic, but interesting take on 20th Century history and politics and reminds readers that living life is the most important thing about it.

*It transcribes that Jonas Jonasson’s original name was Pär-Ola Jonasson. Why he changed it is not known…perhaps for ease of recognition and retention by the international audience now familiar with his work…apologies to Mr. Jonasson’s parents for my presumption.

**(Swedish names that may be difficult for non-Scandinavian readers are also simplified throughout the book with the use of nicknames for the ease of comprehension…which makes this book much easier reading than anything by Fyodor Dostoyevsky!)

***The book has been made into a film that will be released outside of Sweden in September 2014.


The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson Published by Allen & Unwin (2013) ISBN 978 1 74331 793 8


Posted in Book Review, Drugs, Economics, Education, Funny, Hilarious, Historical, Humor, Humour, Money, Politics, Product review, Social Commentary, Sweden, Travel, United States, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Artist Crumb Illustrates Writer Bukowski

By Maria Popova

In the early 1990s, two titans of the artfully cynical and subversive joined forces in an extraordinary collaboration: Legendary cartoonist and album cover artist Robert Crumb illustrated two short books by Charles Bukowski, “BringMe Your Love”   and “There’s No Business.” Crumb’s signature underground comix aesthetic and Bukowski’s commentary on contemporary culture and the human condition by way of his familiar tropes — sex, alcohol, the drudgery of work — coalesce into the kind of fit that makes you wonder why it hadn’t happened sooner.

In 1998, a final posthumous collaboration was released under the title “The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship” — an illustrated selection from Buk’s previously unpublished diaries, capturing a year in his life shortly before his death in 1994.

Posted in Art, Book Review, Funny, Historical, Humor, Humour, Social Commentary, United States | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

LivingInPeace Project Resident Artist Retrospective

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

When friend Erik Sanner became a “struggling artist” stereotype and almost starved on the hard streets of Tokyo, I thought something should be done.

I’d written a couple of articles about Sanner when working as a journalist in Japan, I attended his exhibitions and purchased some of his artworks. We became good friends and I followed his artistic career with interest.

Sanner had invested the full measure of his considerable creative talent into establishing himself as an artist in Japan and his failure to even be able to support himself financially suggested to me that aspiring artists like him needed help. When Sanner gave up on his dream to be an artist and went to work for CitiBank, I was convinced, something must be done.

I decided to do that something and moved to Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand and founded the LivingInPeace Project in 20o4.

The stated objective of the LivingInPeace Project was to combine the elements of Art, Travel, Permaculture and Education into a sustainable business. The art facet of the project sought to provide aspiring artists like Sanner with a place for them to live and work and a means of assisting to promote and market their creations.

(Fortunately, Sanner returned to art once his financial situation improved and he is making quite a name for himself in avant-garde art circles in New York City, check out his work at

All aspiring artists face the same paradox; No one buys their work because no one knows who they are, and no one knows who they are because no one buys their work. Another challenge is that creative art skills and creative marketing skills are diametrically opposed and not generally found in the same person. The LivingInPeace Project aims to help artists become established by transcending such conundrums.

The LivingInPeace Project Artist-in-Residency Programme began in 2005 when Canadian artist Dave Besseling, whom I’d also befriended in Tokyo, came to Karamea for three months to concentrate on his drawing. He became the our first official resident artist and we have hosted an artist every year since.

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Besseling went on to travel the world, collect a post-graduate degree in journalism, publish two books of poetry and a travelogue about his journey and is now the features editor for Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) magazine in India. The LivingInPeace Project and Karamea, as well as myself, receive a good mention in his book, which is titled “The Liquid Refuses to Ignite.”

Dave Besseling Book II

Since 2005, the LivingInPeace Project has assisted aspiring artists to overcome the financial challenges of getting established and helped them develop their creative talent into a sustainable practice for life.

So far in 2014, resident artists from Northern Ireland, Canada, Italy and Germany have accepted residencies and the success of programme has expanded its capacity and ability to host artists.

Northern Irish artist Norma Burrowes returned to Karamea for her second residency in February 2014 to complete work she began during her first visit in 2010. She was fortunate to receive a travel grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland that covered her airfare and mitigated the cost of flying across the world in the name of art.

Burrowes arrived in 2010 as a photographer and used the images she collected to return in 2014 as a photographic textile artist. In the interim, at home in Antrim, N. Ireland, she had combined her passion for photography with her love for fabric and came up with a photo kaleidoscope tapestry that she presented to the LivingInPeace Project as a “tablecloth” for the long dining table at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, which is the setting for many long discussions and much hilarity over communal meals with people from the world over. We considered the piece to be far to beautiful to spill wine on and decided instead to permanently install it on the ceiling above the table to preserve it for all to enjoy into perpetuity.

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The ‘Table Cloth” by Norma Burrowes

From her Karamea experience, Burrowes created a series of stunning kaleidoscopes from her photographs that take the beauty of nature and convert it into symmetrical fractal patterns that create an entirely new artwork that in turn reflect natural patterns, textures and colours.

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Karamea Photo Kaleidoscopes by Norma Burrowes

Burrowes put together an art exhibition of her new work before flying home and was successful in selling many of the works. The exhibition was held in the Karamea Radio Station Lounge behind Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, which is part of the LivingInPeace Project accommodation facilities.

Norma Burrowes Exhibition


2010 and 2014 LivingInPeace Project Resident Artist Norma Burrowes.

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She also agreed to an interview on Karamea Radio. Hear it Here:

Dejana Lukac from Alberta, Canada also accepted a residency in 2014. Lukac comes from a background of abstract and graffiti art and uses those mediums to reflect on nature and mimic organic forms.


2014 LivingInPeace Project Resident Artist Dejana Lukac

She arrived before Norma Burrowes had vacated the Artist’s Bach that is offered to resident artists and began her residency at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery. There she was able to live with the work of previous resident artists, which is on permanent display in the hostel gallery. She was also able to befriend Burrowes and attend her exhibition.

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As a young world traveller, Lukac found instant rapport and empathy with the guests and staff at Rongo and together they did many expeditions into the Kahurangi National Park and immersed herself in the natural opportunities afforded her by living in Karamea as a resident artist. Her resultant work was steeped in the natural imagery and the textures, patterns and designs of the natural environment.

Lukac chose to show her work outdoors in the natural environs of the Karamea Estuary. Her exhibition was well attended by local people and visitors from many countries, including Germany, Belgium, Australia, Japan and Italy.

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Hear a Karamea Radio Interview with Dejana Lukac Here:

Most artists make prior contact and schedule a residency before arriving, but others come as guests at either of the LivingInPeace Project’s accommodation facilities; Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, or Karamea Farm Baches and ask to stay on as resident artists.

This year, Marco Gianstefani, a documentary filmmaker from Milan, Italy, arrived at Rongo where he heard about the LivingInPeace Project from founder Paul Murray and one of the directors, Gerar Toye over dinner at the hostel. Gianstefani, who was formally the creative director for one of Italy’s largest advertising agencies, was looking for a subject for his next film and found it in Karamea, perhaps the most remote town on mainland New Zealand.


Marco Gianstefani

He stayed on as a resident artist for several months, collecting stories and footage about the project, it’s people and location. He was joined by friends Paolo Baccolo and Silvia Bazzini, who were in New Zealand testing a new high definition camera (EOS 1-D) for Canon. They also stayed as resident artists at the LivingInPeace Project to assist with the collection of footage for the documentary. 


Silvia Bazzini (left) and Paolo Baccolo


Paolo Baccolo and Silvia Bazzini


Marco Gianstefani on location at Scotts Beach on the Heaphy Track, West Coast, South Island (near Karamea).


Marco Gianstefani on location at Kohaihai, Heaphy Track, Karamea.

Gianstefani shot hundreds of hours of footage and conducted over 50 interviews with people involved with the LivingInPeace Project and residents of the Karamea region. He has now returned to Milan to begin the mammoth task of editing and collating the information into a documentary film that he hopes to enter into the Sundance Film Festival later this year.

While in Karamea, he also did his own radio show on Karamea Radio. He called his show “20-4- 20″ and it featured 20 soundtrack songs from 20 of his favourite films.

Shota Kawahara from Japan was another artist who discovered at the LivingInPeace Project as a traveller. He stayed several times at Rongo as a guest and as a Wwoofer (volunteer) to help run the hostel and the permaculture farm. Kawahara, a graduate from the famed Kyoto University art school, then stayed on as a resident artist and was unique in his ability to paint in the public gallery space while being asked questions and conducting conversations as he worked. He even recruited other travellers to assist him with his painting. Several of his works now form part of the permanent collection in the Rongo Gallery.


Shota Kawahara with his lovely assistants

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Shota Kawahara (back) with the Rongolians


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Shota Kawahara at work in Rongo Backpackers & Gallery


Shota Kawahara at play in Rongo Backpackers & Gallery

Kristin Mikrut from Chicago also arrived as a Wwoofer, she helped out for a while and then returned the following year as a resident artist. The highly creative Mikrut specialized in installation art and used her creative skills to engage the Rongo guests in her artistic projects. She had travellers from all over the planet who pass through Rongo writing messages for bottles that she built into a message wall, she also encouraged people to take a button and sew it onto their favourite piece of clothing to accessorise their outfit with a spot of art that then accompanied them on their travels thereby spreading her artistic influence throughout the world.


Kristin Mikrut with her “Message in a Bottle Wall.”


In another work, she collected postage stamps, colour graded them and then pinned them to a Rongo wall emanating from a silhouette profile of her own face made from cassette tape. The work represented her time as a LivingInPeace Project resident artist and her many thoughts.


Mikrut returned to her home in Lake Forest, Illinois, about an hour from Chicago, and set up ReInvent art gallery with her friend Cecilia Lanyon. The venture displays artworks, holds exhibitions, provides workspaces for artists and also hosts resident artists. She had met Shota Kawahara at Rongo when she was a resident artist and invited him to the United States to be a resident artist and exhibit his work at ReInvent.

(Read more here: Japanese Artist Shoto Kawahara Takes on Chicago)


An international artistic collaboration that began at the LivingInPeace Project in Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Kristin Mikrut and Shota Kawahara at the ReInvent Gallery in Lake Forest, Illinois.

The project hosted two more artists from the United States. Kyle Browne from Massachusetts in 2008 and Tokyo-based New Yorker Jason “Ponzi” Ponzuric in 2009.

Artist and educator Browne is a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and has a post-graduate art education degree from Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Kyle Browne at work during her residency at the LivingInPeace Project

During her residency, Browne matched her love or art with her passion for teaching and conducted life drawing classes and paper-making workshops at Rongo, did and art class with the children at Karamea Area School and also had an exhibition of the work she produced in Karamea.



Art Class at Rongo with 2008 Resident Artist Kyle Browne


Danish traveller Luna Moller enjoys Kyle Browne’s art class at Rongo



Kyle Browne (centre) with Karamea locals Gisela Simon (left) and Sanae Murray at am exhibition of her art works at the Rongo Gallery.


“Stark Naked” by Kyle Browne


Kyle Browne welcomed the 2014 New Year in Karamea and put her artistic talents to work on the beach.


Jason “Ponzi” Ponzuric, who is from New York, but has been living in Japan for over 20 years, stayed for three months as a resident artist in 2009. Ponzi also offered art classes for guests at Rongo conducting a life drawing session and a woodblock printing workshop.


Ponzi at work in the Artist’s Bach during his 2009 LvingInPeace Project artist residency


Ponzi live painting at Rongo at the Karamea Radio shack.


Ponzi live painting at Saracen’s Bush Lounge in Karamea


Ponzi’s woodblock print-making workshop at Rongo with Nobuyuki Kamei from Japan (right) and Joyce Lau Ho Ming from Hong Kong (centre).


“Smoking Fish” by Ponzi



A graduate from the Montserrat College of Art in Beverley, Massachusetts, Ponzi has made a name for himself in Tokyo as a “Live Painter.” He sets up his easel at live music performances and interprets the music with a painting in front of the audience. He has also been known to body paint female dancers as they perform and has now reinvented himself artistically as the guitarist and frontman in the popular Tokyo band “Tits, Tats & Whiskers.”


Tits, Tats and Whiskers live in Tokyo


Hard-Rockin’ Ponzi (Photo by Maki Ambo)


Tokyo Band “Tits, Tats & Whiskers” (Photo by Marcellus Nealy)

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In the winter of 2009, Wellington-based videographer Ed Davis utilised the LivingInPeace Project facilities to make a music video for Auckland musician Donald Reid.

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A tight production budget provided Davis with the artistic challenge he revels in…taking an opportunity and using his creative mind to produce excellence. To assist him, he recruited the Rongolians and the people of Karamea, who came out in force to see the project through.

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The music video for Reid’s song “Hitting on Me” was filmed exclusively in Karamea on a single day on a budget of $500.

Israeli manga artist Tzook Marcel Har-Paz also arrived at Rongo as a traveller and became a resident artist after he revealed to us a special talent for drawing.

Tzook has never had any formal art training, but his father is an art teacher and artist and he has grown up in an environment where the use of the right brain is encouraged and fostered.

Fresh from a national service stint in the Israeli Army, Tzook was ready for the cathartic process of expressing himself artistically and the LivingInPeace Project artist residency was instrumental in not only helping him find his feet creatively, but also in lightening the mental baggage he carried with him from his time in the military.

During his residency, Tzook was interviewed by a Japanese TV crew who were in Karamea filming for the TV show “Sekkai no Hatte no Nihin Gin” (Japanese at the Ends of the World) about the life of my wife Sanae, who is from Tokyo.  The film crew came to document her life in Karamea for Japanese television. The television crew were very interested in Tzook’s Japanese manga-style work and interviewed and filmed him at work for the TV show.

Tzook became part of the LivingInPeace Project. he helped out at the hostel, worked on the permaculture farm, went fishing with the guests and Rongo crew and became a “Rongolian” (citizen of Rongo) during his time as a resident artist. An amicable person with a great sense of fun and funny, he quickly found rapport with the people passing through and forged many a friendship with the people he met.










…To Be Continued…

Filmmakers Elise London and Louis-Philippe Carretta (Louca) accepted a residency in the summer of 2012 to document the LivingInPeace Project. The pair met as students at the New York Film Academy and formed  PassitOn Films after they graduated. The company creates short, documentary-style promo videos for businesses, organizations, and individuals who are passionate about what they do. London and Louca believe that “video can communicate that human element that still images and words can only reach for.”

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LivingInPeace Project video by Louca and Elise:


Elise also kindly assisted me with an artistic collaboration by compiling a collection of photographs into a stop-motion production called “花見/花火 Hanami / Hanabi”

and a photographic story about the history of Rongo Backpackers & Gallery: See the short/medium and long-play versions of the slideshow below:

Belgian artist Arnaud Vanderkerken, known as PsoMan, arrived as a Wwoofer (volunteer), but stayed as a resident artist once his prodigious talent was revealed to us.


DSC_0170PsoManIIPsoMan also agreed to collaborate with me on an artistic project. He took one of my abstract art photographs and we used it to make the “Exhibition of One Photo”

Exhibition of One Photo by Paul Murray & PsoMan


The Original: Taken on the Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park at the Top of the South Island of New Zealand

In 2004, I walked the Heaphy Track to collect information and take photographs for the Web site. Along the way, I happened across a rock and took its image home with me.

I try and incorporate a metaphor in my abstract nature photos to increase their artistic merit.

To me the image represents the passage of life. The staircase through the photograph indicates the challenges and seemingly insurmountable barriers that we all face as we travel through time. Easy times when life is good are represented by the horizontal lines, the difficulties by the vertical…with the net result being an exponential increase that represents the gaining of wisdom, knowledge, experience, comprehension and proficiency and the steps get smaller as life progresses toward the end…the challenges of life easier to negotiate.

Looking at the photograph from different angles and rotations, it occurred to me that the image was interesting whichever way it was viewed and also that it could be joined to make patterns and flows that could be used to highlight the different perspectives and imagery in the picture.

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PsoMan assisted with the project to blend the images together into a whole series of montage photographs that utilize the original shot to make beautiful patterns, new stories and art forms. The image was not altered in any way other than rotated, matched together and joined.

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Almut Prange from Stuttgart, Germany was the most recent LivingInPeace Project resident artist. She arrived in May 2014 struggling with her muse, but soon found her creativity bubbling again after taking the opportunity to concentrate on her artistry in a quiet, peaceful place surrounded by the inspiration of nature.

After graduating with a Master of Arts degree from the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter, Germany, Prange embarked on a world trip to put some perspective on her life and to decide how to spend hers. In New Zealand, she heard about the artist residency programme and applied. She was soon living in the Artist’s Bach at the Karamea Farm Baches complex confronted with the opportunity to spend six weeks concentrating exclusively on her art.

Prange got to work and produced numerous new works and also found new way to express her creativity. She collected driftwood from the nearby beach and estuary, studied the form and patterns of nature preserved in the wood. She enhanced the textures and lines by painting in concert with the art of nature and gradually recovered from her artistic malaise. She then began a series of abstract portraits that began to also select the natural patterns, shapes and designs she saw in the driftwood and in the surrounding Kahurangi National Park.

Social interaction with the staff and guests at Rongo afforded her a diversion from the intense concentration of artistic expression and an opportunity for rest, relaxation and good conversation over dinner after a hard day at the palette.


Almut Prange at work in the Artist’s Bach in June 2014

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Rongo Dinner

Almut Prange (Right) enjoys dinner with the staff and guests at Rongo after day’s painting.

Over the past 10 years, the LivingInPeace Project has hosted a range of artists including; painters, photographers, poets, writers, musicians, sculptors and hosted live music performances, theatre, poetry recitals, book readings, clown performances, art classes and workshops. The stated objective of the project is to support art and artists and has done and will continue to do so.

To enquire about a residency at the LivingInPeace Project, please contact Paul Murray by e-mail:
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Artist Almut Prange Rediscovers Her Muse

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

2014 LivingInPeace Project Resident Artist Almut Prange


German artist Almut Prange was travelling around New Zealand on holiday and found the experience spoke to her muse. It said, “You must go somewhere quiet and concentrate on painting.”

She listened to her inner voice it led her to Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island, where she settled for a month as a resident artist at the LivingInPeace Project, a venture that supports aspiring artists and helps to promote their art.

Like many creative people, Almut was experiencing a frustrating artistic block, but she quickly overcame the barrier when she arrived in Karamea and took up residency in the “Artist’s Bach,” a quiet, peaceful self-contained cabin on a permaculture farm, which is part of the Karamea Farm Baches complex. With chickens on out one window and grazing sheep on the other, she set to work on rediscovering her inspiration.

A prolific deluge of artistic production ensued and Almut not only overcame the mental obstruction to her creativity, but also found new direction in her work from the quiet contemplation afforded her by the residency and being surrounded by the beauty of the Kahurangi National Park that envelops the small rural community of Karamea.

The New Zealand landscape, Maori cultural influences and the patterns and forms of nature became evident in her new works. She collected driftwood from the beach and began to add paint to enhance the natural shapes and designs on the wood. Abstract portraits were enhanced with Maori-like patterns and influences and her art took on a new dimension.

Social interaction in the evenings with the staff and guests at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, which is also part of the LivingInPeace Project, provided her further inspiration. “I really enjoyed hanging out at Rongo surrounded by artworks from previous resident artists, watching movies in the cinema, enjoying the music on Karamea Radio, eating dinner together…great food and good conversation,” she said.

Rongo Dinner

Dinner in the Rongo Gallery, great food and good conversation with people from all over the world every night.

Almut showed her gratitude for the artist residency by leaving behind several of the artworks she finished during her stay, some abstract portraits and painted driftwood that was instrumental in her rediscovering her artistic inspiration. Rongo guests will be able to see her work and that of many other resident artists on display in the gallery at Rongo Backpackers.

Thank you Almut for coming all the way to Karamea and accepting an artist residency and for the beautiful artworks you left us with, we wish you all the best for your future in art and life.

Before heading off to continue her travels through New Zealand, Almut agreed to an interview on Karamea Radio, which broadcasts from Rongo, you can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below.

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Posted in Art, Education, Environment, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Radio, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Permaculture, Photography, Radio, Social Commentary, Tramping, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lorenzo “The Italian Snail” Visits Rongolia

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray
Lorenzo III

Lorenzo Sebastio hits the road and heads south after spending the night at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Italian traveller Lorenzo Sebastio is a real backpacker and there aren’t many left.

He calls himself a “snail” as he carries his house on his back everywhere he goes and go he does. His current adventure is to walk from Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, to Bluff the southernmost point of the New Zealand mainland.


Lorenzo’s Route: Cape Reinga (E) to Bluff (A)

Walking is his thing and he shuns offers of lifts from passing motorists, but randomly door knocks people’s homes to ask for permission to erect his tent in their garden to spend the night, before moving on again in the morning.

(Presumably, he doesn’t tell people he’s a giant snail before they grant him permission to camp near their vegetable patch)

He arrived at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, the hostel I own and operate in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island after having met a couple of the Rongo crew––Violetta from Germany and Yoshie from Japan, wwoofers (volunteers) who were helping us out at the hostel––on the Heaphy Track a couple of days prior.

Lorenzo is a qualified chef and I agreed to let him stay at Rongo for free if he made us a genuine Italian risotto for the pot-luck dinner we had scheduled on the night he arrived…and also if he agreed to be interviewed on Karamea Radio, which broadcasts from the shed behind Rongo Backpackers. Once a quid-pro-quo arrangement was established, we had the pleasure of his company and he the pleasure of a dry, warm night in a comfortable bed and a hearty meal with the Rongolians.

Lorenzo proved a wonderful house guest, fluent in numerous languages after having lived and worked in France, Spain, Scotland and Germany and was genuinely interested in the other guests, he contributed many wonderful insights to the conversation over dinner from his experiences on the road in Aotearoa and elsewhere around the world.

After spending a day with little company other than the sound of nature, the beat his feet and the occasional brief chat with passing motorists, Lorenzo was enthusiastic for conversation and human interaction and he marshalled interesting dinner-table discourse well into the evening.

The solitude of walking long distances on the road (he averages over 20 kilometers per day) affords plenty of time for introspection and Lorenzo has developed an aspiration to retrace the adventures of compatriot Marco Polo as recounted in his 13th Century travelogue, known in French as “Livre des merveilles du monde” (Book of the Marvels of the World), in Italian as “Il Milione” (The Million), or in English The Travels of Marco Polo,” and to contemporarily rewrite the tome.


The route travelled by Marco Polo from 1276 to 1291 (Source: Wikipedia)

In preparation for that rather lofty challenge, he photographs his New Zealand hosts and writes a short account of his encounter with them on his journey with the view to compiling the notes and images into a book and publishing his New Zealand travel experience.

Anyway, that’s enough from me…check out what Lorenzo himself has to say in his Karamea Radio Interview below and if you see him on the road say hello…and if he knocks on your door, invite him in for the evening as he’s a very entertaining, interesting and polite house guest.

I wish him well on his Aotearoa Adventure and beyond.

Lorenzo II

Lorenzo IV

Lorenzo V

Lorenzo hits the road after spending a night at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand to continue his trek south to Bluff.


Posted in Funny, Heaphy Track, Historical, Humor, Humour, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Radio, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Photography, Radio, Social Commentary, Tramping, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

DJ Crap & the Big Man Call it Quits….For Now…

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

It’s over.

DJ Crap and the Big Man have hung up their headphones and are officially on sabbatical after teaming up for 500 consecutive Wednesday nights to present their Blues Show on Karamea Radio.

Mid-week, every week since Hurricane Katrina totalled New Orleans, either DJ Crap (Paul Murray) or the Big Man (Brian Thomson), but usually both have fronted around 8:00 p.m.  at the Karamea Radio shack and played their heads off for the people of Karamea, a small rural community at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

DJ Crap, a fan of great music, but a self-professed technophobe, met the Big Man, a technically competent and patient mentor, and they teamed up to form the bad cop-worse cop duo that have entertained the people of Karamea every Wednesday night since December 2004 and had a whole lot of fun doing so. But, as they say, all good things eventually finish and that time has arrived.

The lads have decided to save their official 500th show for a special occasion after the “Country” music show (number 499) requested by Karamea local Mal Hansen failed on two attempts and had to be repeated. The first attempt was thwarted by computer failure and wasn’t recorded, the second met with a power outage and had to be cancelled mid-stream, but was finally successful on the third attempt…they called it Show 499 ¾.


DJ Crap and the Big Man in 2004


DJ Crap and the Big Man in 2014

It all began innocently enough, two friends who love the blues, decided to share their favourite music with the people of Karamea via the airwaves on 107.5 FM. DJ Big Man is more the strong, stoic type…staid, polite and considered, while DJ Crap is brash and outspoken…frequently controversial, preposterous…insulting, rude and occasionally expletive.

Music galvanized the two disparate characters and held the show together, the Big Man tempered the outrageousness of DJ Crap, coached him through the mechanics of the radio station equipment and moderated his tendency for excessive and potentially actionable behaviour, while DJ Crap challenged the Big Man’s sense and sensibility and pushed him beyond his previously modest limits…the real winners were the listeners as the tremendous music they presented each week was resultantly  interspersed with witty banter, attempted jocularity, and polite political incorrectness.

Together, they were greater than the sum of their respective parts and, as a duo, they were dynamic.

What started out as a blues music show quickly expanded into other associated genres rooted in blues, like funk, soul, jazz and rock’n’roll while comedy sketches provided light relief to the relentless awesomeness of their musical selection. Listeners phoned in requests, the Rongo customers and Rongolians always grooved to the shows live by the roaring bonfire in the Rongo garden, dancing occasionally occurred, and much fun was had by all concerned.

Five hundred three-hour radio shows equates to 62.5 days and nights at the microphone…that’s over two months non-stop radio grooving folks…longer than it rained on Noah…over 3,000 episodes of The Simpsons…or to put it in clear perspective…far too long for any sane person to spend away from his family on Wednesday nights…so the pair decided to take a break after show 499 ¾ and save the 500th Blues Show for a special occasion…like the 10th Anniversary of Karamea Radio in September 2014.

Fans may listen to recorded shows on SoundCloud: along with many other great shows from DJs from all over the world…people who have stayed at Rongo Backpackers and done their own radio shows, other Karamea DJs like DJ Echo (Tim Hawley) who owns Saturday nights, DJ Marcellus Nealy who records his Nuphoria radio show in Japan and sends it exclusively to Karamea Radio via the InterWeb, Christchurch DJ Paul GoodSort’s Undy Music Show, DJ Bigga (Dave Bateman), whose Bigga than Bateman Show reset politically correct guidelines, DJ Obewan (Brett Mawson) who also teams up with DJ Echo on Thursday nights for the “Echoes of a Jedi” Show, Weaver D (Raramai Adcock)…and many others who turn up randomly and casually to make Karamea Radio the best radio station anywhere ever!

So it’s goodbye for now from DJ Crap and the Big Man, thanks a whole lot for listening over the years and stay tuned to 107.5 FM for the actual 500th show…coming soon to a wireless near you.

Please follow Karamea Radio 107.5 FM on FaceBook:

Big Man & DJ Crap DJ Crap & the Big Man II DJ Crap & the Big Man Xylophone DJ Crap and the Big Man DJ Crap and the Big Man DJ Crap at Karamea Radio DJ Crap Selfie III DJ Crap Selfie

DJ Big Man DSC_0020_2 DSC_0483 DSC_0553 The Big Man

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Karamea Radio Sign



Posted in Art, Blues, Business, Funny, Hilarious, Historical, Humor, Humour, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Radio, LivinginPeace Project, Media, Music, New Zealand, Radio, Social Commentary, Travel, Weird, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heaphy Track – MTB Paradise


A Great Day out on the Heaphy Track

By Stephen and Jan Roberts

There are stars glittering in the sky – it is still dark out – too early for the sun to be up yet and we’re in the car driving north.  We have a mission planned – first stop Westport to refuel and meet some friends and then on up to Karamea to mountain bike the Heaphy Track.

Heaphy Track Kahurangi National Park

The Heaphy Track is a 78 km track in the Kahurangi National Park that runs from Karamea in the Buller region of the West Coast through to Collingwood in the Nelson/Tasman region at the top of the South Island.  Traditionally only a hiking trail DOC have given it a three-year trial run for seasonal mountain biking.  Our plan today is to bike into the Lewis Hut, the second hut in and then bike back out again – like I said, we have a mission planned – why don’t you come along for the ride……..

With next to no traffic on the road it is an easy drive to Westport (to be expected really as it is Saturday morning and how many other crazy people would be driving at 6.30am in the dark).  Glorious morning and lovely to watch the skies change from dark and starry to the pink and blue hues as the sun comes up.  Not a breath of wind either so it is eerily quiet out.  Looks like we are in for a glorious day.

Karamea and the road to the trailhead of Heaphy track

After meeting with our friends Shaz, Ren and Mandy in Westport and Mandy’s friend Mark, we head off for the journey over the Karamea Bluff to Karamea and the trailhead of the Heaphy track.  By the time we arrive the sun is well and truly up and it is warming up nicely.  Being autumn in NZ it is always hard to know what to wear so we all have our thermals on just in case.

crossing swingbridge by bike Heaphy track

With anticipation and a little trepidation we head off on our expedition.  Shaz and Ren have ridden the trail before so they know what we are in for.  Stephen and Mandy rode it many years ago before you weren’t allowed to ride it and Mark has hiked the trail so I was the only newbie and to say I was anxious would be an understatement.  Stephen said he could feel the tension oozing out of me.  I’m often like that before a big bike ride – not knowing what I’m in for, how many hills, how long is it going to take, will I be fit enough, will I hold everyone up……… silly really but that is just me!

numerous swingbridges on Heaphy track

Heaphy Track along the shoreline Kahurangi national park

The track starts with a bit of a climb – nothing too strenuous, just a gradual incline winding its way up the bluff, helping warm up the muscles and shake off some tension. There are a couple of swingbridges to cross – there are going to be plenty of these along the way, some short others much longer.  Pretty soon we have all warmed up and have big smiles on our faces.  We can’t believe the scenery – there aren’t enough words to describe it – absolutely magnificent.  Everyone sheds a layer of clothing and we are off again, down the other side of the bluff and then following the coastline.

beach sections of the Heaphy track

The track meanders along, up and down with little rocky outcrops to negotiate and deep sandy sections.  Some parts lead you right onto the beach – bit of bike walking and bike carrying required for these sections.  The pounding surf rages almost along side you and as the ride goes on and the tide comes in the spray and sound is fabulous and adrenaline pumping.

Nikau palms in forrest Heaphy track

The bush is simply stunning, lush Rata and Karaka trees and row upon row of Nikau Palm trees.  The trail winds inland slightly and then back out following the coastline.  It continues like this for around 16.5kms before we reach our first destination – the Heaphy Hut.

negotiating swingbridge Heaphy Track

fun and laughter crossing swingbridge heaphy track

girls enjoying day out on Heaphy track mountain biking

Before we reach our destination though we have some laughs crossing the swing bridges, especially the longer ones.  They are nice and wide for the bikes but like when you walk across them, they soon start swinging and it is quite an odd sensation riding your bike across something that is moving both sideways and slightly up and down.  There are huge smiles on all our faces as we safely reach the other side.

Heaphy hut and heaphy river

At the Heaphy hut we have a bit of a rest, chat and laugh about the ride so far and refuel with a bit to eat.  Everyone is prepared with sandwiches and bars.  Nice place to rest here for a bit with fabulous views of the Heaphy river meeting with the Tasman Sea and surrounded by this gorgeous forest.  Does life get much better than this!

Shaz and Ren enjoying the bush scenery Heaphy track

Onwards again and we have a reasonably flat 7kms to the next hut – the Lewis Hut and our turn around point for the day.  The trail winds in and out of the forest now filled with supple jack vines and huge rock formations and follows the Heaphy River inland.  There are some huge dinosaur looking trees and Ren and Shaz stop for a pose – nice shot guys!

massive tree on Heaphy track

We probably all go a bit quick on this section – enjoying our surroundings and forgetting we have to bike all the way out again……. fun while it lasts though. We round the corner and the Lewis Hut is in front of us.  Another quick break and bite to eat and time to turn round and head for home.

Shaz crossing swingbridge on heaphy track

Ren taking in the views from swingbridge on Heaphy track

The ride out is just as spectacular as the ride in but the energy levels are waning.  Not quite the same smiley faces as we cross the numerous swing bridges.  Shaz and Ren make it look easy though – I’m convinced these guys run on energiser batteries – they are truly inspirational!

sand, surf and bush mountain biking heaphy track

Nearly back – just have to climb back out and over the bluff – I totally forgot about the climb, slow and steady as she goes…….

Nikau palm lined coastline on heapy track

The trailhead beckons and we give ourselves a clap and wahoo. Comments are made to each other how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful part of the country, have the opportunity to either bike or hike in such a beautiful part of the country and even more-so actually be able to bike or hike so we can enjoy this wonderful scenery that makes up the West Coast of the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Now – where is a shop to buy more food……… I’m hungry!

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation 14kms north of Greymouth.  They love the outdoors and enjoy living on the West Coast and getting out and exploring.  Check out their other blog postings or activities pages for idea on things to see and do while visiting the West Coast.


A great day out for FREE…MTB from Karamea to the Heaphy Hut and back….then stay at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery and enjoy a world famous “Heaphy Feast.”

Originally posted on coastingnz:

There are stars glittering in the sky – it is still dark out – too early for the sun to be up yet and we’re in the car driving north.  We have a mission planned – first stop Westport to refuel and meet some friends and then on up to Karamea to mountain bike the Heaphy Track.

Heaphy Track Kahurangi National Park

The Heaphy Track is a 78 km track in the Kahurangi National Park that runs from Karamea in the Buller region of the West Coast through to Collingwood in the Nelson/Tasman region at the top of the South Island.  Traditionally only a hiking trail DOC have given it a three-year trial run for seasonal mountain biking.  Our plan today is to bike into the Lewis Hut, the second hut in and then bike back out again – like I said, we have a mission planned – why don’t you come along for the…

View original 985 more words

Posted in Department of Conservation, DOC, Environment, Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, Media, Mountain Biking, MTB, New Zealand, Photography, Sport, Tramping, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment